About this Show

Book TV

Mark Binelli Education. (2012) 'Detroit City is the Place to Be The Afterlife of an American Metropolis.' New.

NETWORK

DURATION
01:00:00

RATING

SCANNED IN
San Francisco, CA, USA

SOURCE
Comcast Cable

TUNER
Channel 91 (627 MHz)

VIDEO CODEC
mpeg2video

AUDIO CODEC
ac3

PIXEL WIDTH
704

PIXEL HEIGHT
480

TOPIC FREQUENCY

Us 9, Detroit 8, New York 7, Marsha 3, The City 3, Brooklyn 3, Michigan 2, Ann Arbor 2, Detroit City 2, New Orleans 2, John Sinclaire 1, Jean Strouse 1, Ron Scott 1, Davis 1, Coleman 1, Frank Sinatra 1, Ted Nugent 1, Des Cooper 1, John Irvin 1, Pete Bera 1,
Borrow a DVD
of this show
  CSPAN    Book TV    Mark Binelli  Education.  (2012) 'Detroit City is the  
   Place to Be The Afterlife of an American Metropolis.' New.  

    December 15, 2012
    7:00 - 7:59pm EST  

7:00pm
as you might imagine, in the press. and preachers, that sunday, all over the country, were quoting this. and one irreverent newspaper--i think it might have been the evening post, said, 'well, this is all well and good, but it shouldn't lead us to conclude that ess is profitable.' but some paper in teading those words in the will, and then also the fact that he'd left everything to his son, the headline was god--'morgan leaves soul to maker, money to son.' c-span: how old is he on the picture in the back of the book? >> guest: it's 1860, so he's 23, just before he married mimi sturges. c-span: and then, again, on the front of the book. >> guest: probably about 70, 75 i'm not sure. i'd say 72 is a good guess. c-span: and our guest has been jean strouse. and this is the book, called, "morgan: american financier. " thank you very much. >> guest: thank you, brian. ..
7:01pm
7:02pm
mark binelli, contributing editor of "rolling stone magazine" returns to the city to present a history and profile the influx of artists, environmentalists, and city planners who are reimaging the urban landscion. this is a little under an hour. [applause] >> i'm thrilled mark asked me to be a part of this. as they said, old friends from ann arbor where we went to college and editors at the college newspaper. i knew then that mark was from the area, like i am, but i didn't know of his intense interest in history and the stories here, and so that leads me to my first question which is what really led you to want to write this book? i remember you calling me when you were starting to work on it, and you said, i want to write a
7:03pm
book about detroit. i thought, yeah, well, so does everybody; right? [laughter] this turned out to be a different book than others we red now. >> i sensed that a tiny bit when we got lunch. you were one the first people i talked to about it, and thank you, first of all, for doing this. i guess, i don't know, i've always been drawn to detroit as a topic, and, you know, i thought for the longest time it would be a novel, that seemed like -- that seemed like the way to go, and then, you know, they -- when i came back in 2009, for "rolling stone," i was assigned a piece on the auto show. this was, you know, january 2009 so you remember, you were here. >> sure. >> it was the, you know, the
7:04pm
chrysler and gm on the brink of bankruptcy, the former mayor was in jail, and detroit had become sort of the, you know, the poster city of recession basically. >> right. >> i've seen reporters come from not just all over the country, but from all over the world basically to, you know, cover the story, but also to gawk in a weird way and to, you know, take a few photos of the packer plant, and, you know, use detroit as like some sort of metaphor for whatever was happening in the country, and that's probably around the time i called you, and you were like, oh, yeah, good luck, buddy. [laughter] i did believe, i guess, that as a, you know, as someone from the area, i could, you know, hopefully bring a nuance and a sensitivity to the topic. that includes that nuance includes things like humor. you know, i think, so often
7:05pm
somebody comes to detroit for a few days, focusing on, like, the bleakest, you know, and most tired narratives told again and again and again, and, you know, again, as you know, detroit is a city with, you know, fascinating characters and you talk to people and just don't, you know, take pictures of empty buildings with, like, nobody in the picture. >> right. that's one of the things that struck me of the book. it's not about detroit, the buildings. it's about detroit, the people. in some cases, just people you happen to cross. i mean, it's not talking heads. it's not public officials. it's not press people. it's just people you met, and that's always one of my favorite stories in the book is the day that you go down to the site of the former -- the original ponchtrain, now has a ponch train hotel on it sitting there empty, and you met a bunch of different people down there, but
7:06pm
one was this guy, tony. i wanted you to talk a little bit about tony, how you met him, and why you included him in the book. >> i thought it was just kind of a sort of telling moment. i mean, yeah, and i guess i like -- i love that kind of moment because of the serendipty of it. i road -- i read detroit's history not long after i got here, and, you know, as a lot of people here probably know, you know, right down there near the plaza is where cadillac, the french explorer first landed, there's a statue, and that's what the fort was. i was reading that, and sort of unusually funny day, and in the fall, and so i decided to make my way down there and sit outside, and it was, you know, it was a weekday, and it was pretty empty, and, yeah, a guy tony approached me. looked like he might be a street guy, like, maybe homeless, and i
7:07pm
thought he was going to ask me for money. he saw me reading, and, instead, he pulled out a couple battered paperback books out of his pocket. one was "the world according to garp." [laughter] he talked about huh he loved john irvin, and then somehow he told me about his experience in the prison system, told me about his scars and bullet wounds, and he eventually starts telling me that, you know, he doesn't want -- people don't want to mess with him, and he yanks up the sweatshirt, and he had a giant machete and ax in his belt. he's just said straight faced, you know, i'm a licensed carpenter, and i'm allowed to carry my tools. [laughter] >> only in detroit; right? >> it was great, i mean, great for the purpose of the narrative
7:08pm
of the detroit moment. you know, his name was tony, antwan, cadillac, just a lot of resonance. >> right, right. you're telling the story of the city through these -- through these characters who you meet, but one of the things that struck me about the book is you're not so much making obvious -- you're making observations. yourself not making judgments, and there's not that much analysis in the book. it's really just a story of what it's like to be here now, what it's like to live here now, and you tie that in nicely with the history of the place in lots of different instances. >> thank you. i appreciate you saying that. i've done a lot of interviews the last couple days, and people want analysis, kind of a sound bite. i had radio interviews yesterday with people in different parts of the country, and they wanted to know what's next in detroit? how do you fix detroit?
7:09pm
just like ridiculous questions, and i said it was not a policy book, and if i could answer the question, you know, in, like, 30 seconds, i would announce my running for mayor, probably. [laughter] >> you and everybody else. >> yeah, right. yeah, no, i tried, really, to just talk to people, you know, and sort of let detroiters tell their story, and, yeah, you know, the history, as you said, so rich and, you know, some multilayered. i just let that come out. >> right, right. another really striking part of the book, for me, was about the blues concerts that happen -- >> oh, yeah. >> that's actually not far from where i grew up. >> right, near that park; right? >> downtown, right, and where i live now, in fact, i've been there. i'm not sure i've seen anybody else come to detroit and actually pick up on the fact that things like that still go on, and in neighborhoods like
7:10pm
that, and that's a neighborhood that, if you went over there and drove through, you would think there's almost nobody living there anymore. >> yeah, yeah, and, no, i found that thing interesting. this is, like, off st. auburn, a part of the east side of detroit where, you know, there are -- you'll go down blocks, and there's like one house left, and the grass is up to here in the summer. you know, you really feel like it's a field in the country or something, and, you know, it -- i found it really fascinating the way people kind of take ownership of that and can sometimes, you know, turn it into -- it's not an asset exactly. they at least make something of it. this guy, pete bera, who happens to be a cousin of joe lewis -- >> and related to tom who ran for mayor a couple times. >> oh, right, of course, yeah. everybody's connected.
7:11pm
>> yeah, right. >> he just started having these, you know, kind of block long fields basically that had once been, you know, densely pop populated with residential houses, and they are empty, and now he has blues concerts there every sunday in the summer. it's a good scene and a good crowd of people come out. that's another only in detroit thing, i think. i mean, you feel like, you know, you're in clarksdale, mississippi, but year -- you're five minutes from downtown. >> i know you're from the area like we said, but after ann arbor, you left and mostly lived other places, and then you come back to detroit to tell the story. tell me about the things that surprised you about the city things that you found that were different, that maybe you didn't expect or things that you found that were the same, that maybe
7:12pm
shocked you. >> you know, i think the first thing that surprised me was how much i liked living here to be honest. [laughter] i mean, to be full disclosure, you know, when i decided to do the piece, i moved away in 93 #, i guess, and, you know, my family still lives here. a year never went by where i didn't visit at least a couple times, but, actually, the idea of a real extended stay just kind of, you know, like planting myself here, i wasn't sure how it would go. i had a life in new york, likedded my life there, and i thought i would approach it as sort of a regular reporting gig where i would come in, report work, really hard for, like, a week, you know, get everything done i needed done, and then retreat back to new york for four weeks. it didn't work out that way. i mean, i really found myself spending more time here than in
7:13pm
new york and really making a lot of great friends, and, really, i don't know. being inspired by, you know, things, like, you know, things like what you just mentioned, you know, the pete bara weekly thing, and just, you know, that -- there is a kind of interesting energy that -- it's hard to put your finger on, but it's, you know, des cooper, you probably know her, i quote here in the book. >> sure. >> she's not innative to detroit, moved here in the 1980s, a long time journalist, a smart thinker about detroit, and she talked about how detroit is the sort of place where, you know, people are doing things every day that you're not expecting to do anywhere else. i mean, people are coming home from work and then patrolling their neighborhoods because, you know, there are not police there. you know, they are reclaiming vacant lopts -- lots turning them into gardens
7:14pm
or concert venues and boarding up vacant houses. there's a chapter in the book called "diy detroit," and i feel that surprised me, i guess, the extent of that and how, you know, real and, you know, kind of inspirational that can be. >> right, right. some of the characters you come across on your journey in the book are familiar characters, characters written up all the time in reference to detroit, and one of those is somebody who lives, again, not too far from me, and where i grew up, and i've read -- i don't know how many different things about tyri who i met several times and talked to, but this treatment of him, i thought, was very different than i read anywhere else. i want to read a couple paragraphs how you captured and him talk more about it. it's at the end of the section
7:15pm
saying "he was pondering why he did what he did and how he got to this point in his life, waving arms skyward again, believing in a purpose for all of us. the sky looked strikingly beautiful this morning, felt like arguing with his host, and got back to the car, everything fine, i worried all morning for nothing. a pheasant dashed in front of our path. we seemed to all cry out at once, delightedded, once so inclined might have -- one so inclined might have interpreted the moment as arguing something good." that's a really hopeful set of phrases you put together around a guy who i'm not sure was described that way. >> just another thing i stumbled upon. he's been written about a lot, and so i had a list of those people who i wanted to reach out to, especially when i arrived
7:16pm
here because i didn't know what the direction of the book would be, and i somehow got an e-mail, and his wife responded and said he doesn't do interviews unless he's paid now or something. [laughter] i was like, all right. i was hanging out with the other people, the other people in that passage, and so it was a buy rich bellman, who was a long time, kind of labor activist working with grace bogs who is, you know, a really interesting activist as well. >> sure. >> and weirdly, mark rudd, part of the underground, 60s and 70s, doing this, and on a tour, i tagged along, ending up at the idleberg project, and he just happened to be there, and, yeah, i don't know, everything just seemed very weirdly pore tiewtous. i had never talked to him before, and he's very, you know, very devout, and he conned of, just out of the -- kind of, just out of the blue
7:17pm
asked us about god, and we were, like, huh, and we were on the street that he's, you know, that was left for dead when he reclaimed it in the 8 # 0s, and -- 1980s, and he's turned into this really, you know, international tourist destination, go there any day of the week, and you see, you know, people there from all over, and, yeah, i don't know. there -- >> it's not, i mean, it's not him as celebrity in the book. >> no. >> he's just a guy. >> just happened to pull up in a truck, and, i don't know, checking out the flag he just attached to one of the houses or something, yeah, so i would much rather present a well-know character like that, where they are off. it's not, you know, it's off kilter rather than sit down and do a former interview and have talking points to get the same
7:18pm
story. >> i'm going to indulge myself here because i work at one of the newspapers, but you write a lot about press coverage of the city and the book, and particularly local press coverage, and the first time you sort of visit with that is with the headlines about crime in the city, and i think one of the tricks about writing about detroit is assumes it's not one thing or the other, not assuming it's these things and not those, but it's all the things trying to figure out how they all co-exist and fit together, and i thought you did a good job of, you know, something like murder, which we get a lot of coverage for and is a -- violence is a real presence here in people's lives here, and i thought you did a good job of capturing how it's both surreal to you as an outsider, the headlines you see, but a real presence, also, for people here.
7:19pm
>> yeah, for sure. i mean, you're right. it's one of those, you know, several aspects of the story that i think is told so often and can be told in a caricatured way. i struggled with how to, you know, deal with it myself. you just can't ignore it. it's, you know, i mean, i think -- i think it was the detroit news just had that poll recently -- >> sure. >> where 40% of the detroiters said they wanted to move within the next four years if they could citing crime as the number one reason. >> right. >> i mean, it's like you can't tell the story, honestly, without reckoning with that kind of thing, but how to do it was tricky. you know, again, i think telling the story through characters, for me, was the way to go. it's the kind of non-fiction writing i like to read, you know, hearing it through a
7:20pm
character rather than through, you know, statistics or whatever. i mean, along the lines of crime, one -- john carlisle, detroit blogger john -- [laughter] there he is. he took me to the weird place, a whole other story called club thunderbolt -- >> [laughter] >> yeah, talk about that later. we'll come back to that. >> yeah. the crime aspect of the story was, you know, this guy, chitchatting with them, and one of us noticed a whole in his front door that was crudely covered up with a board like somebody hammered it shut, and i was, like, what happened? he said he was upstairs one night watching leno and heard somebody breaking in, ran down
7:21pm
stairs with a shotgun. he's heavily armed, had a gun hanging out of his pants with an arsenal he showed me. runs downstairs, shoots the guy through the guy, doesn't hit him, intentionally shot low, didn't want to hit him, called police, and it took police four hours to get there. they told him, next time, aim higher. i think it's a better way of sort of illustrating, you know, the severity of what's going on here. >> right, right. talk about club thunder bolt. [laughter] this came up on the web chat you had. i figured i'd let you talk about it. >> the blogger john is one of the first people i met when i
7:22pm
initially came here to report on the auto show and the auto industry for rolling stone. i didn't know at that point i was going to do a book, but i started poking around and looking at local blog, and i found his blog, and just loved it, and so e-mailed him, and he, you know, wrote back right away and showed me around for that story, and then, you know, we became friends, and when i moved here, we occasionally went out and said, oh, a found a crazy spot that you have to see, and this spot was particularly -- this might have been the crazyist, i think, we could say; right? he's probably found something else since then. [laughter] this guy who had -- was living in his parents house, both died, again, a rough neighborhood in detroit, he had been shot in the face as a kid, like a teenager maybe, and so his face was,
7:23pm
like -- lookedded like he had a stroke. it was partially paralyzed, but he was a strange, intense character, heavily armed. the club part is he turned his parent's house into a strip club so you had to call this number, and if you went there, you end up in the house that is furnished, you know, looks like it was furnished by a couple in, like, the late 1960 #s, like frozen in time with the creepy wood paneled way, but then there's, like, strippers. [laughter] yeah, that was the weird night. [laughter] >> there was another part of the book that really, another pass camming in the book that struck me, and you wrote about evangelist murders that happened over on the east side, and i thought it was really interesting how you sort of drew a parallel to those murders and murders that had happened, i think, 80 years before?
7:24pm
>> yeah. >> in the same neighborhood, but then you talk about covering -- going to sort of see the trial, and i thought i would just read, again, a short passage to capture how you essentially write about us in the press and how we deal with these things. you say, "when i arrived in the courtroom in frank murphy hall, i was surprised by the absence of any other journalist. i thought i pulled a boner and turned out unnecessarily early and fretted veterans of the crime never bothered with that first day. not a single reporter turned out for the duration trial. you would figure a dismemberment would be a crisis, but it was not by detroit standards. what do you have to do around here to get ink? that same week, the crime story was a 12-year-old girl who tried to rob a convenience store with
7:25pm
a loaded gun." that's a real insight to the challenges we have, but just the challenge that anybody has coming here just sort of taking it all in and trying to sort through what's important and what's not. >> that was the strange thing. you mentioned the evangelist murders. at one point, i was just doing a lot of research into detroit history, and i came across this very sensational crime that happened, you know, in the 20s, in this -- it caught my attention because it involved italians, and my parents were here, are, you know, both italian immigrants, and so at that time, this neighborhood -- actually, very close to where the blues concerts are on the east side, was very italian, and there was this guy, called himself benny evangelist. his last anytime was
7:26pm
evangelista. he was kind of a cult leader. there was some catholic stuff, but he basically had his own religion and wrote a weird book called small like "the secret history of the universe revealed through a cult science in detroit, michigan." [laughter] which i almost used for my title, but then i -- [laughter] >> publishers were like, oh -- >> not into it. [laughter] just to tell the story very quickly, he ended up -- he and the entire family were brutally, you know, gruesomely murdered, beheaded, and, you know, his children killed as well, and it was a big sensational story at the time, and we can go through the free press archives and find all the coverage. it was never solved. at a certain point, i realizedded it was not far from where i was living over in eastern market. i walked there to check it out, and it's, you know, where the house was is just a field now. i just filedded that away, and
7:27pm
then, yeah, weirdly enough, probably a year later, there was another murder, like, almost literally across the street. it was a drug thing, and these kids were trying to scare -- there were two rival drug houses in the town, and they were trying, you know, the two teenagers were trying to scare off the rival, and so to do this, they killed and horribly dismembered this guy, this ram dome guy scattering body parts literally around the street from the other murder. i thought that's, you know, again, that's just history repeating itself in a way that i found fascinating so, yeah, as you say, i went to the trial. i don't normally cover murder trials. i don't know the etiquette -- >> i'm not sure there is an etiquette.
7:28pm
>> just sort of, you know, i don't know what, yeah, if it's not cool to show up the first day -- [laughter] i was the only one there to the point where, like, the judge called me out in the middle of the trial, like, who are you? he noticed me taking notes. [laughter] it was, yeah, it was shocking to me that that did not rise to the level of, you know, daily coverage. >> no, no, i mean, i think that's a fair criticism. you know, the reactions to the book have been, at least from my stand point, just overwhelmingly stark and positive. i mean, you've gotten a lot of national attention for this book that i don't see going to some other things that people are doing around here, and i wonders what you thought of -- was this what -- did you expect that it would have this kind of resonance nationwide?
7:29pm
>> and, i mean, now, it's been great. i couldn't really hope for the -- the coverage has been great so far. i was really thrilled by that. oi did suspect people would be excited, just meeting people not from detroit, the sort of general interest, and in detroit people have, detroit still has a special mystique for people, and i think in a way that very few other cities do, maybe new orleans, a handful of cities, and i tell people about the book or that i was from the area, and you probably get this too because you lived baltimore and other places, and, oh, detroit, i always meant to go there or what's it like, you know, it's just like, i don't know. there's a fascination, and sometimes it's like a morbid, you know, kind of unseemly fascination, but i have over the
7:30pm
course of the reporting, i feel it's changed a little bit. at a certain point, the recession ground on and on and on, there came a point when it seems like people who are not from detroit really wanted detroit to succeed, like, it became almost like a story where you want the street urchin to become the president of the bank, you know? [laughter] it was like an inspirational story because people looked at their own cities, wherever they are in stockton on scranton or jefferson county alabama, and they are looking at detroit, which has got the reputation of being the worst place, you know, and they are thinking, well, if detroit can make a comeback, then we have hope too. that comeback narrative has been, you know, that's, you know, real incapslated in the super bowl ads really resinated in ways that shocked me, you know, but it kind of makes sense. >> no, it does. i think it resinates nationally,
7:31pm
i think, locally, like i said, i grew up here in the 70s and 80s and came back in 2007, and i was more shocked that people were still talking about a comeback in 2007 because i remember 1977 when i was in 1st grade going on a field trip to see them build the renaissance center, and the people leading the field trip telling us this was the beginning of the detroit coming back. i was six then. i'm not six now. [laughter] yeah, i mean, i think that's a really resonant theme, but for those of us here, it's like, all right, we should be back already. >> we heard this before. >> yeah, right. >> how many have there be sense then? >> right, right. that leads me to one of the other passages i thought was really telling in the book.
7:32pm
it says -- i lost the page, "for decades the succession of city officials struggled mightily to rebrand detroit's battered image with schemes with gambling, new ballparks, hosting a grand pre, hosting a super bowl, and commissioning motown record's founder who fled detroit for l.a. in the early 1970s taking the entire motown operation with him to write a theme song for the city modeled after frank sinatra's song, new york new york, and davis handled the vocals, but the song, hello, detroit, failed to burp up -- burn up the charts." i remember that. we played it every morning on a local radio station. >> i remember that too, yeah. >> except in belgium where it reached number one. i didn't know that. [laughter] it says, "but now the attention showered on detroit from the
7:33pm
trendy quarters came in no small measure thanks to the city's blight. the city's brand was authenticity that had to do with the way the city looked. with fixes the very real problem facing by detroiters, i began to wonder, rorks b detroit -- robbing detroit some part of its essential detroitness." three or four people who i gave the book to read, came back and asked me about that specific last line, and they are curious whether what you're saying is that our dysfunction is such a part of us that we can't afford to let it go -- [laughter] that we can't afford to lose it. [laughter] a couple people were mad. >> yeah. >> when they asked me about that, and i said, well, you know, i don't know. i'm asking you. >> yeah, i don't mean dysfunction, but i do think there's -- i don't know. i don't want to say i worry about this because i think any,
7:34pm
you know, positive development, detroit people welcome that, period, but i think about, you know, what new positive developments -- especially in, you know, you see stuff coming up in downtown, like, what will that mean exactly? is bulldozing a bunch of those old buildings and putting up new mall-like structures, like, some people cheer that. >> right. >> a lot of people cheer that, and in way, you know, why not? you drive past the same rotted out buildings for decades, literally, decades. >> right. >> you can't fault people for that. at the same time, i don't want detroit to look like houston or, you know, or every other city basically. >> right. >> except a handful of cities, so, you know, i guess i'm referring more to that, you know, what i guess what i referred to earlier, that mystique that detroit has that i
7:35pm
think it shares with places like new orleans and handful of other cities, and it's hard to put your finger on, you know, you know, what makes that essential. you know, what components, you know, play into that exactly, but, yeah, it's just something to think about i guess. >> you don't think we'll stop being detroit if we get our act together and make things better? >> no, no, it's more about paving over haste ri, maybe, i think that's what -- history, maybe, i think that is what i was getting at completely. >> okay. yeah, we should probably take some questions from the audience. if there are any. come on, folks, you got to have questions. >> [inaudible] >> sure. >> i'm marsha music, and i read a lot about detroit, and i know that in your tie log with one another, just a little geeing,
7:36pm
-- a little bit ago, you seem, both of you, perhaps you more based on the relationship with the media here, trapped in a crime vortex that seemed to be a rabbit hold that both of you are going down because i have no doubt that this book probably has a great many more stories other than about the crime issue. >> sure. >> do you find it to be very hard to avoid that, that matrix as sort of the only interesting thing to say about the city? >> well, i mean, i think certainly, i think there's a lot of other interesting things about the city, but as someone who lived here more time than i lived anywhere else, i also say that crime is a very big part of our lives here no matter where
7:37pm
you live, no matter who you are, you know, i worry every day because my -- some of you who read the paper, know my street lights have been out for a good long time, and i worry about my kids and wife walking from the garage to our building every day because the lights are out. that's dangerous. i think, yeah, you can get too caught up in it. it doesn't define my life, but it does give cop tour to it. it does shape some of the decisions i make every day and the decisions that i ask my wife and my kids to make every day, but i certainly didn't mean to suggest that that's the only thing that's interesting, either about the book, which is not about crime, but does give you a good sense, i think, of the role that crime plays here. >> [inaudible]
7:38pm
[laughter] >> i'll say she's one of the stars of the book -- [laughter] we met at a different talk, not one i was giving, but about someone giving a lecture on ruins, and we were discussing the same things, and they were discussing the same things we just discussed. what do you want to preserve? what don't you want to preserve? marsha stood up and asked, you know, a few provocative questions, and i introduced myself afterwards, and then she kindly took me on a great driving tour of the city. a little bit of it was in this weekend's new york times magazine with a longer version of it in the book. i think you're, you know, i have plenty of characters in the book who are not just numbering people. [laughter]
7:39pm
>> a detroiter who moved to new york, and i did the same thing, but now back in detroit. i lived in brooklyn for awhile. care to comment on similarities between brooklyn rising and detroit rising? >> i feel like detroit is -- don't you feel detroit is the real version of what they think they are doing? [laughter] [applause] i have so many new yorkers tell me, like, oh, i want to move to detroit. i got to open a bakery. i got to open like an art store or whatever. i say, have you been? they say, no. i'm like, it's not williamsburg, trust me. visit first. [laughter] i feel like, i don't know, i found a lot of that sort of really positive coverage of detroit, particularly of the art scene, and young bohemians
7:40pm
coming in, and i felt it was cool at first, but then it was draining on me, and i felt it was coming from places like brooklyn, and finding a place they could real romanticize, and, you know, living in new york, you feel like you missed that era of the grittiness that people think they are looking for like the east village in the 1980s or whatever, and i think, detroit, you any, in a very superficial way came to represent that for some people. >> do you think that's a distraction from the real story here or trajectory of things here? >> i mean, i think -- i think all things considered, positive coverage about detroit is good, you know. i think it's, obviously, it's annoying when i feel like details just did a story where they did, like, you know, the 30
7:41pm
people under 30 saves detroit, and everybody was white. thirty detroiters, and i was just k lirk -- and i was just, like, really? i think it's a distortion more than a distractions. i think all the thing that's happening is great and exciting, but it's such a tiny little pocket. >> i do think when i met mark at the meeting, that he was pride. i had a sense even with the questions that he was asking me about the city that he could see detroit, literally could see drat, and in seeing detroit, what i really meant or mean to say by that is he was able to see the totality of the people who live here base there are
7:42pm
many ways in which, particularly, in this bubble, as he calls it, of the newly developed midtown and downtown areas, there's a tendency to treat detroiters, native detroiters as invisible, and i have been on a mission for sometime to counter the invisibility of the actual african-americans who make up the majority of the city, and i was very clear that he was not trying to do a positive story on detroit because just the triteness of that is offensive too, but he was trying to do an objective and penetrating look at this city and cutting through some of the myths of the city and of the new development of the city because that has been mythologized as well. >> again, because you stick to
7:43pm
stories and stories about real people who live here and have been here a long time, the book really has that feeling of just saying what is opposed to saying either that's good or bad or trying to say what should be, which i know that, i've heard some of the interviews, and some of the interviewers seem to try to lead you to some sort of analysis of, you know, where is the city going, what's the city's future, and the book doesn't -- the book, i thought, did a very good job of restrapping -- restraining itself from that which we are getting from other places. >> very impressed. >> that's good. >> [inaudible] >> sorry? >> [inaudible] [laughter] >> knowing me, i just wanted to know how muchful book was really surrounding the music industry, and i'm really sad you didn't ask me about my era.
7:44pm
i was a big part of the mansion group, bob segar, hung out there every weekend with my italian mother's knowledge. [laughter] i just wanted to know about that and another part, understood in your blog on the free press that no one's written a book about young. is that your next adventure? >> no, i don't think i can -- [laughter] i think i ought to step away. >> that's the most loaded question i've heard in months. [laughter] >> i do stand by that. i think this is a great biography -- crazy that -- >> well, there have been books written about him, and they are much more academic. i -- spilling beans that are not mine here, i suppose, but i know there's projects in the works to either do a biography or a documentary next year, municipal
7:45pm
elections, will be 20 # years since he stepped down. >> oh, wow. >> so that's sort of a good time to try to pitch to, you know, people to get money to actually do it so maybe someday. >> well, good, good. yeah, as for the music stuff, that's partly why i kind of had to leave detroit to actually write the book because part of me wanted to write every book about detroit, you know, i could have done a whole book about the music. i could have done a whole book about coleman young. there's not that much music in the book. sorry to disappoint you. [laughter] there's a little bit about detroit's techno music bay i lived on a block where they basically invented techo music, another story i just stembled on to. you know, i talked to the older guys still around. i talked to the last surviving
7:46pm
four top, and a few other people, but, you know, but i guess as, you know, i do a lot of music writing for rolling stope, and i wanted to do -- rolling stone, and i just wanted to do something with this one, so -- >> a single character in your book you would consider more inspirational than any other? >> i'll just say marsha. [laughter] >> more inspirational than any other. good question. i thought, you know, i thought the firefighters that i spent time with in highland park. i spent time with firefighters in highland park who are literally operating out of a, like an old chrysler warehouse. they -- their fire house condemned five years earlier. they slept in tents because they spent two or three days there at a time. they had so few walkie
7:47pm
talkies they communitied with hand signals in fires. it was insane what they were doing. they were really dedicated. yeah, i'd say might maybe those. >> yeah, sure. >> oh, hey, how are you doing? >> are these your parents? >> they are. >> pleasure to meet you, very honored to meet you. your son spoke very highly of you. >> do you think detroit is suffering from what i think this planet is suffering from is this specialness, this need for specialness on the map et earth in the sense that, you know, detroit claims specialness in a very up usual way, and as they grasp to claim that, a lot of dysfunction happens, and, in fact, the whole planet has a dysfunctional relationship to
7:48pm
specialness, and i'm sure, you know, like my family claimed that specialness in a very -- >> the direct descendent of the family, one of the french, original french settlers of detroit so all of those streets on the east side, with french sounding names were the original ribbon farms owned by the founders, the first settlers of detroit so that's how -- i just found you on the internet somehow. [laughter] then, weirdly, you knew -- you knew my brother's wife's family. >> yeah. >> i'm not totally following the question, i guess. >> i guess what i'm saying, you know, is there's a claim to specialness that detroit seems to have, just, and everybody, i think, does, in a certain way,
7:49pm
shape, or form, every city, tel-aviv, they think they are special, wherever you go, they have a specialness, but detroit has a unique relationship with specialness in a very different way than other cities do. you know, for example, if you go to san antonio, they think they are special because of this, that, or the other thing, but in this city, it's a very unique claim to specialness in a way that i don't think no one else can relate to because as we keep getting all of these arrows hit at us for all of these different things, we find a specialness even in that, and -- >> i think that's one of the things that's attracted me to writing about detroit before i knew i would write this book. >> right. >> was, yeah, the, i mean, you know, it's one of the great stories, american stories of the 20th century. i mean, if you think about the epic rise of the city and what came out of it, you know, basically modern life in the 20th century, you know, consumer
7:50pm
culture, you know, the middle class, you know, sprawl, changed everything. >> yeah. >> and so, and then, that rise, and then that fall, which the way it fell also says so much about certain togsic -- toxic things about american culture. yeah, i think that is special. >> you know, the reason i ask you this question is because, you know, funny to me, when i was a kid, you know, when they landed on the moon, when you look at the united states, there's one thing that -- state that stands out is michigan surrounded by water, and there's salt mines. we have documents and documents in our family signed by madison and all the peopling and this river is very unique separating two countries in a very unique way, and what happened in the city, we talked about this, just the arsenal of democracy. i don't know if this country
7:51pm
would have won world war ii without this city. >> i think that's true. >> when i talk about the specialness part, we're now defaulting in a way that there's a lot more things to be proud about, not the crime or any of this, but finding specialness in the wrong areas sometime i guess is what i'm saying. >> yeah -- >> the music is a whole other genera, you know, and being 61, i grew up in all of that, the prime wood stock, the whole thing, i mean, it was, like wonderful in the city, and so -- >> [inaudible] >> i have not read the book yet, but i'm anxious to read it. [laughter] >> yeah, thank you. something about the salt, because there's so much salt here, it created a positive energy or, like, positive and negative energy. this guy was a druggy strange
7:52pm
character. there could be something about the salt. >> blame it on the salt. [laughter] >> time for two more questions. >> i guess i want to call up on these themes, but, you know, just the idea that detroit may be more than any other place with a product of the 20 #th century and responsible for all of these things that we sort of assume and relate to whether it's generational, you know, or not. we're at this place, you know, a kind of -- and we have all of the stuff all this remnants, all of the baggage, and, you know, you can talk about that in a lot of ways, but where does that kind of leave us? you know, and what, you know, what do you sort of see in terms of detroit, you know, a hundred years from now where --
7:53pm
[laughter] >> well, i'm not asking for a prescription, but it's more, like, so here we are, and, you know, we kind of have this big question mark, and, you know, i guess i'm not asking you to paint a picture as much as sort of, like, you know, wonder with us, you know, what it is that we -- why we're here? you know, why do any of us get up in the morning? [laughter] >> yeah, i mean, i think that's a good question. [laughter] i, you know, and i guess, you know, we talk a little bit about this earlier, like, the idea -- or my expression of fear of bulldozing and paving over some of that history. i think you and i might have talked about this once when we, francis is another person interviewed for the book, and he's been very active in the preservation movement here. you know, that -- like, the
7:54pm
industrial history of detroit is, you know, it's significant. it's a significant part of the 20th century american history. the way that we look back and preserve the, you know, some of the ruins in rome and greece. i don't think we want to lose that. you know, as far as what it becomes, i have no idea. sorry. [laughter] >> yeah, back there. >> [inaudible] >> former neighbor. >> exactly. great neighbor, by the way, also. [laughter] my question is, you know, i love detroit, moved to new york also, moved back, and just tremendously in love with the city still. i've been back now for six years, and just, i mean, every day there's shotgun new about the city that i just fall -- something new about the city that i just fall in love with.
7:55pm
i live outside the city, but the question is what neighborhood or area did you find most fascinating? just really just wowed, this is the cool or the bomb shell, you know, that you just could not, you know leave out of, and you just had to go there, like, the next day. >> i'll mention two. first, our street. this was another weird moment. i was looking for a sort of semifurnished apartment, found it on craig's list, and there was a single block, you know, a service street, yeah, not far from where you grew up. >> up believable stories about when i grew up, the bad things we did on service street, but -- [laughter] totally different story. >> what was it like? >> there were shops there. >> i used to make -- my father
7:56pm
was is retired now, but was a knife deliverer, and i used to make deliveries. were people in the lofts? >> i don't think so. it's the business owners on the street didn't want me and my friends doing what we were doing back there, so -- [laughter] >> when i first, it's changed even in the four years since i represented that place. when i first arrived, it felt like kind of the best possible version of what, you know, i thought detroit could be. it was just such a vibrant mix of people, you know. laz, a personal chef. there was, like, djs, and john sinclaire was around a lot, rock history, and, you know, ron scott, who's, you know, a great local character, founded the local chapter of the black panthers back then. such a wild mix of people, and
7:57pm
such a sort of tight community, and, so that, yeah, that's one neighborhood that i would, even though it's just a single block, that i would point to. >> the bonfires. >> yeah, there's a fire pit in the back and people would hang out around the bonfire, and literally, it's eastern market. >> right. >> the other neighborhood, which we talked about a bit, that part of the east side, very depopulated part of the east side that still has, really, interesting pockets of people just kind of doing things, farnsworth street, a block, and basically one guy bought up the houses, and it's like a hippy commune, and people annex the yards around them and put up big fences and put up a crazy
7:58pm
italian statuary and have a huge yard. it's just like, i don't know. bad things happen there, too, like, these drurg murders, but -- drug murders, but that was a neighborhood i kept going to again and again. >> so i'm going to ask the last question, and it's about the title, which i think is a great title, but i think when you say -- if you say "detroit," you just say "detroit," but if you say detroit city, you say "detroit city," and how many times did you explain that to people? >> i don't know how to explain it, but i say it that way, and people remark about that, oh, dee troit. >> right. how did you come up with it? >> it's a ted nugent song, and it just felt appropriate for this moment, you know, we talked about this, touched on it in the
7:59pm
talk, and detroit's weird trendiness right now, and post-recession, it seemed to become the place to be for all sorts of reason. i mean, people wanted to fix it. people wanting to come up with plant -- urban realignment plans. people wanting to take picture of the ruins, like, for whatever reason, it seems like a special moment, and, yeah, i just felt right. >> okay. well, thanks a lot, mark. >> thank you. >> thank you, all for coming. [applause] >> for more information, visit the author's website, markbinelli.com. ..

Terms of Use (10 Mar 2001)